Of all the important lessons cities and counties have learned since the pandemic began, high on the list is the value of working together. No community can solve cross-jurisdictional challenges alone – it’s a concept that’s at the heart of a new initiative launched by the National League of Cities (NLC) and WastewaterSCAN that brings free sewage monitoring services to local governments.
“This partnership’s work to expand access to wastewater monitoring and analysis tools will help cities, towns and villages across the country lead their monkeypox outbreak response efforts equipped with data and insights. a support network,” said Clarence Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of NLC. in a project statement.
The collaboration will bring together scientists from Stanford University, Emory University and life sciences company Verily Life Sciences to monitor, detect viral genetic material and respond to diseases like COVID-19, monkeypox , influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. Once identified, WastewaterSCAN will provide participating communities with information about their wastewater levels and help shape public health responses.
A statement from the NLC notes that 38 treatment plants in eight states are currently receiving monkeypox results from WastewaterSCAN and SCAN in addition to results for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and its variants, among others. Wastewater monitoring is an important aspect of public health monitoring, so the project and its implications are noteworthy for administrators.
“Because it is population-based and unbiased by access to clinical testing, wastewater helps us know the extent of an infectious disease in certain parts of a community. We know how valuable this can be, as testing practices for SARS-CoV-2 have changed,” said Alexandria Boehm, a Professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, in a statement on the project. “The genetic material of the pathogens we monitor have been documented in the excretions of infected people that end up in the sewage treatment system.”
A briefing note on the project notes that “Wastewater data will be analyzed and results provided to participating cities within 48 hours of the wastewater samples arriving at Verily, WastewaterSCAN’s partner lab. Wastewater monitoring results will be posted on the WastewaterSCAN website along with those of other participating cities. The goal of the project is to arm communities with wastewater data to inform public health planning and decision-making to combat COVID-19, influenza, monkeypox and RSV and, in the long term, to prepare for the risks of other pathogens.
After one year, NLC will publish a report on best practices for municipal administrators. The initiative is open to cities and towns that serve a sewer district of 50,000 or more residents. Participating cities receive free test kits to take water samples three times a week, access to a data dashboard where results are displayed, and virtual learning opportunities that include interactive sessions with subject matter experts. Interested cities can apply for the wastewater monitoring initiative on the NLC website. The deadline to apply is September 2, and after that, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.